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Creating future research leaders for marine sustainability

The UN Ocean Science Decade gets off to a flying start through the University of Bergen’s new interdisciplinary SEAS Fellowship Programme. For the next 5 years, UiB will be training a new generation of marine research leaders and decision makers to ensure sustainable oceans.

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37 three-year postdoctoral researchers will be hired. They will be linked to both academic environments at UiB and partners within business, administration and collaborating research institutions at home and abroad.
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The prestigious COFUND award from EU’s Horizon 2020 will impact the University of Bergen and our region for many years to come. Nearly 40 experienced researchers will be hired. They will be linked to different academic environments at UiB and to partners in business, administration and collaborating research institutions at home and abroad.

"The SEAS Fellowship Programme is a major contribution to the commitments UiB has taken on in our work with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). On behalf of the UN, we already manage the university collaboration for goal number 14 - Life below water. We are now able to take an important step forward”, says Marine Dean, Nils Gunnar Kvamstø, leader of the team behind the project proposal.

He believes the programme is of great importance for Western Norway as an ocean region adapting to more sustainable solutions.

Unique opportunities

"The COFUND grant awarded to the SEAS Fellowship Programme is a very important investment that will shape the direction of our marine research", says University of Bergen's Rector Margareth Hagen.

The EU's COFUND scheme enables UiB to hire the best talents in many different disciplines concerned with marine or maritime topics through international recruitment. Interdisciplinary collaboration provides increased knowledge, and the researchers will collaborate towards sustainable use of the world's oceans.

The program has a total scope of NOK 160 million and ensures that the candidates go through a joint career development program.

“The focus on marine sustainability develops interdisciplinary research, opens up a large degree of business collaboration and strengthens the ability to obtain external funding”, says Kvamstø.

SEAS Fellows will be linked to different UiB departments and can shape their own projects in a bottom-up way, including interdisciplinary and intersectoral perspectives provided by UiB and the considerable numbers of SEAS partner organisations. So far, there are 32 partners in the programme, with several more from academia, business, and administration likely to join as the project rolls out.

Norway is one of the largest contributors to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030).

National ambitions

In early 2021, the UN invited Norway and the Solberg government to participate in a separate support group for the Ocean Decade through the Ocean Decade Alliance.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg has accepted the role of Patron of the Alliance.

“We know that conservation and sustainable use of the oceans are crucial to achieving a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the international community. We can only reach these goals if we ensure that ocean management is knowledge-based. This will require significant expansion of international ocean research and broad-based cooperation. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is intended to achieve these aims,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg in a press release.

Mrs. Solberg co-chairs the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy together with the President of Palau. The Panel consists of 14 coastal states and presented its conclusions in December last year. The 14 Ocean Panel countries have made a commitment to sustainably manage 100 % of their national waters by 2025.

The University of Bergen and other Norwegian research communities have played a key role here.

For Norwegian research communities, the Ocean Decade will be an important arena both for contributing internationally and for directing its own activities towards key goals for sustainable development.

Interdisciplinarity is key

With the COFUND grant, UiB is recognized for its vision of creating the next generation of decision-makers who support the UN's goals for marine sustainability.

"I am very happy that all faculties contribute to the SEAS Fellowship programme, and that the award is perceived as something more than science. Here are important perspectives from law, medicine, social sciences, humanities, art and psychology. The assessment committee has noticed this", Kvamstø believes.

In order to promote interdisciplinary work, postdocs must have a supervisor at one faculty, and a co-supervisor at another faculty. They will also be offered a mentor in another company. The main participation will be from the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

We want to achieve:

  • Increased knowledge to ensure sustainable marine management
  • Support UiB's commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Support the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development
  • Increased volume, quality and collaboration within marine research within the entire UiB
  • Increased quality in research
  • Good career development for postdocs
  • Hire and develop outstanding talents
  • Better interdisciplinary collaboration in the region
  • International visibility 
  • Better outbound mobility
  • Strengthening international research collaboration
  • Better foundation for success in marine initiatives (ERC, SFF and SFI)